Family Day is a busy day for the Liquor City store in Atteridgeville, Tshwane. Customers ranging from trendy twentysomethings to older folk frequent the store on this hot, balmy afternoon.
A South African Breweries truck is parked outside and the liquor store manager, Konanani Manngo, is standing at the door with pen and paper in hand, ready to receive the merchandise. The packs of beer and cider are brought into the store, but the popular kid on this block for the past year has been rosé wine.
The newest and most popular wine making waves in the black urban areas around Pretoria is the 4th Street brand. Manngo says that, over the past year, 4th Street rosé wines have outsold other rosés in her store, including those from Robertson Winery, Namaqua Wines and long-time favourite, Four Cousins.
There are a number of reasons Distell’s 4th Street has gained traction in the market.
“We find that people here actually prefer drinking box wine because the bottled one runs out quickly,” says Manngo. And 4th Street wine is also cheaper than some other brands.
“4th Street is number one these days,” says Africa Ngxongo, store manager at Liquor City in Pretoria. “What we have to understand about alcohol these days is that it’s all about trends and now it’s trendy to drink rosé, the 4th Street rosé wine to be specific. People used to like Four Cousins, but now it’s different. I think the popularity of 4th Street might be because of good advertising and location. You’ll find that a lot of people in Atteridgeville and Mamelodi, young and old, drink 4th Street. ”
A report by the SA Wine Industry Information & Systems on liquor consumption patterns states that the domestic “wine market increased in volume terms by 7.7% for the 12 months to October 2015 and this is mainly due to new entrants into the sweet red and rosé sector driven by female consumers in urban areas”.
If you attend parties or hang out at recreational parks in urban areas like I do, you will spot bottles or boxes of rosé all around but almost no red wine. Rosé is the preferred tipple for urban dwellers who don’t like ciders, spirits or beer.
When it launched in the early 2000s, Four Cousins introduced a lot of people in the townships to wine. It was a must-have for all occasions – braais, parties, weddings and traditional parties. But 4th Street wines are giving them tough competition.
Sharon Nemabhadwe (23) likes 4th Street’s pink rosé colour because, for her, it’s “ladylike’’.
“I’ve seen a lot of people buying and drinking 4th Street sweet rosé wine,” she says. “I enjoy the sweetness of rosé and I only drink it when there is a special occasion.”
The die-hard rosé cheerleader has only ever tasted rosé because she perceives red wine as bitter, but she is willing to branch out and explore different types of wine.
Lethabo Mokoena thinks that “4th Street is cheap and a lot of people drink it because it gets you tipsy really quickly”.
Marilyn Cooper, former chief executive of the Cape Wine Academy and cofounder of the Soweto Wine and Lifestyle Festival, says rosé is perfect for people who’ve just started drinking wine.
Sweet rosé is often people’s first introduction to wine before they move on to sweet whites, dry whites, soft reds and, lastly, heavier reds. But many often fail to explore a range of wines beyond the pink drink.
You’ll often hear young black people in urban areas say that they only started drinking wine openly in their twenties, compared with their white peers, who were often introduced to wine earlier on in their lives, often at family dinners.
In an attempt to capture the black urban market, Cooper says some premium wines have used African names and African-inspired illustrations for their packaging. But 4th Street features an idealised city landscape, packed with skyscrapers.
They also work with local influencers to market their brand online and promote exciting packaging concepts, such as a handbag-like wine box to appeal to female drinkers.
The Four Cousins’ bottle features the faces of the four white, all-male Retief cousins, the brains behind this wine range. Nothing about the packaging screams Africa, but consumers loved the brand.
The rosé wine market is growing at a rapid pace. All eyes are on the big wine houses to see if they will capitalise on this business opportunity. The wine industry also needs to transform and diversify itself – it wouldn’t hurt to see more wine companies reflecting and catering for South Africans’ different taste buds and ethnicities.